FALL ARTS 2014 Film season unspools at a theater (or a park or museum) near you
United Nations Association Film Festival The all-documentary festival highlights themes of human rights, the environment, refugee issues, war and peace, and more. This year's theme is "Bridging the Gap." Oct. 16-26; www.unaff.org
American Indian Film Festival Now in its 39th year, this fest showcases works (including narratives, docs, music videos, and animation) by and about North American Indian and Canada First Nation people. Nov. 1-9; www.aifisf.com
San Francisco Dance Film Festival Shorts, documentaries, and performance films celebrating dance, with a special tribute to documentarian Frederick Wiseman. Nov. 6-9; www.sfdancefilmfest.org
San Francisco Transgender Film Festival This extremely popular fest (program info coming in early October) celebrates films that challenge stereotypes and "promote the visibility of transgender and gender variant people." Nov. 7-9; www.sftff.org
3rd I San Francisco International South Asian Film Festival: Bollywood and Beyond This year's fest focuses on music and dance, with a centerpiece lecture-performance on "Bollywood maestros" R.D. Burman and A.R. Rahman. Nov. 6-9 and 15; www.thirdi.org
Apologies to Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1 is out Nov. 21; as always, all release dates are subject to change) and Reese Witherspoon (Wild, Dec. 5), but fall's big-budget brigade is awfully male-dominated. That said, one of the season's most-anticipated films — David Fincher's take on the runaway best-seller Gone Girl (Oct. 3) — has quite the doozy of a female character (Rosamund Pike) to offset its double-sided lead (Ben Affleck). Fourteen more must-see (dude-filled) films below.
The Drop (Sept. 12) Tom Hardy and the late James Gandolfini star in this Dennis Lehane crime drama, which also has a puppy-themed subplot. Everybody wins!
A Walk Among the Tombstones (Sept. 19) and The Equalizer (Sept. 26) Thank you, Liam Neeson and Denzel Washington, for keeping the "lone-wolf badass" genre alive.
The Guest (Oct. 3) Downton Abbey escapee Dan Stevens stars in this creeper from indie horror auteurs Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett.
The Judge (Oct. 10) How's this for casting: Robert Downey Jr. plays a hotshot lawyer; Robert Duvall is his estranged, retired-judge father who maybe killed someone.
Kill the Messenger (Oct. 10) Jeremy Renner plays Pulitzer-winning San Jose journalist Gary Webb in this thriller about the CIA's suspected involvement in the crack epidemic.
Whiplash (Oct. 17) In this Sundance hit, a talented jazz drummer (Miles Teller) meets the music teacher from hell (the inimitable J.K. Simmons).
Fury (Oct. 17) Brad Pitt (and the haircut that launched a thousand hipster imitations) stars in David Ayer's action drama, set during the last month of World War II.
Birdman (Oct. 17) Michael Keaton plays "a washed-up actor who once played an iconic superhero" (hmm...) in Alejandro González Iñárritu's ensemble dramedy. Also aboard: Emma Stone, Naomi Watts, Edward Norton, and Zach Galifianakis.